All sweeteners effect our metabolism and our health.
However when looking for alternatives for sugar we need to look for products that will not raise our blood sugar as much as normal sugar does.
“Sugar is poison at the right dose,” says Mark Hyman a leading functional doctor.
In other words, we would be better off not consuming any sugar at all.
I often offer a free 2 week No added sugar challenge on facebook and the clients all say, just by eliminating the unnatural sugar, and by eating the naturally sweet fruits ad vegetables, things taste different and they can't go back to eating the sweet goodies they used to regularly indulge in.
Humans do not require sugar, yet we consume on average our body weight in sugar each year. With loads of calories but no nutrients, sugar is the number one cause of weight problems and lack of nutrition. Our bodies cannot function on this nutrient-poor source of calories and it rebels with a multitude of physical ailments. As we know, sugar causes dental cavities, but even more seriously, sugar has been linked with weakened immunity, heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and more.
Understanding What Sugar Does
Sugar and processed carbohydrates (pasta, bread, and all processed foods) are treated the same way. These types of foods are broken down almost immediately and a flood of sugar is released into our blood. In response, our pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone that restores blood sugar equilibrium by taking sugar out of the bloodstream and moves it either into muscle for energy or into fat storage. However, the human body was never designed to handle so many concentrated sweeteners, so the pancreas produces so much insulin that our blood sugar drops too low and all is stored as fat. Then guess what, because our blood sugar has dropped too low we crave more sugar. And, we end up on a roller coaster of energy dips.
What do I Eat?
At this point you probably saying ‘but I have a sweet tooth, what can I eat to satisfy it?’ The answer - fresh fruit and vegetables. Sugar is unfortunately in everything.
Packaged meats, soups, sauces, it is even hidden on some vitamin supplements. Once we start realizing how many foods have added sugars and sweeteners we can start looking for other choices.
The best way to do this is by eating a nutrient dense diet daily and this will ensure we have great energy, mental focus and that we function at out best. When our meals are not balanced, this is when we are in seek of that "something sweet."
"What about artificial Sweeteners?" I'm pleased that there has been a lot of publicity warning us of the dangers of artificial sweeteners. Although I still see many people using them in their coffees or teas. They are all chemically produced and are more harmful to our health. Although the attraction is that they have little or no calories, this is false hope as they still raise our blood sugar and we left with the same problems sugar give us with the added toxins and no nutrients
When looking for alternatives we want to look for whole foods, where our body processes the food differently and our blood sugar doesn't spike as much leaving us with an insulin surge and then dropping us, just for us to crave something sweet again.
Raw Honey: honey still breaks down to simple sugars, however does have some good nutrition and health promoting benefits and a lower effect on our insulin. This is a better alternative if it is raw, organic and unfilitered. enjoy in your tea and coffee. However use sparingly.
Dates: Dates have some great health benefits including good nutrients. Try dates stuffed with almonds or nut butter as a treat.
Molasses: This highly nutritious food is a by product of raw sugar. Blackstrap molasses has the lowest sugar content and the most nutrients of all the molasses. It is again, like honey, a more nutrient dense form of sugar and needs to be used sparingly.
Stevia: Stevia is far sweeter than sugar and has minimal effect on our blood sugar levels. However the product is not often sold as just raw stevia and as additives we don't want. Try find 100% organic stevia. Read the ingredients list. It can have an unpleasant after taste and can effect some medications. Always check with your doctor.
Apple Sauce or Banana Puree: this is my favourite alternative as it adds the sweetness with very subtle taste. Highly nutritious and easy to use in recipes. (1cup = 1cup of sugar)
Xylitol. Xylitol powders have some great health benefits, but many manufacturers use artificial sweeteners. It has a pleasant taste and can be used in baking. It is a very convenient alternative as it looks like sugar. Again use sparingly. It can also have a laxative effect on people so do watch out for this.
Coconut sugar: Coconut in all forms have great health benefits. However the sugar is very similar to regular sugar and should be treated as such. Organic coconut sugar is however a better choice when used in baking.
Sugar Substitutes to Avoid
Any artificial Sweeteners (too many to list)
Agave - In its natural form it has some great health benefits, however none are present in the highly processed form we get from our stores. It can be as potent as sugar with no nutrients. This is one to stay away from.
In conclusion: no sugar is the best way forward, enjoy naturally sweet fruit and vegetables. However we like to occasionally enjoy different foods without having it effect our health. Enjoy trying out the alternatives and see what works for you.